Why Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are
Updated December 17, 2018
Reviewer Tiffany Howard, LPC, LCADC
As the name suggests, body language is defined as "a type of nonverbal communication in which physical behavior, as opposed to words, are used to express or convey information." Common examples of body language include facial expressions, posture, touch, and even the manner in which an individual manages the space in their area. In many regards, body language can serve as a stronger form of communication than verbal language. Moreover, perceptions of body language can vary depending upon environments, upbringing, and other factors. For better or worse, the body language of individuals shapes and tells a lot about who they are.
A Close Analysis Of Body Language
According to Very Well Mind, body language is responsible for approximately 50% to 70% of human communication and interaction. It speaks volumes about people's moods, feelings, and levels of comfort. There is a lot to be learned about body language. In fact, this form of communication is so powerful that many individuals are coached and urged to display very particular types of body language in situations of various importance. This is especially applicable in a formal setting such as places of employment, interviews for prospective job opportunities, business meetings, and the like.
Facial expressions are most indicative of people's emotions and dispositions. This particular form of body language is so powerful that it can override verbal statements and declarations. Overall, looking at someone's face in a certain setting is often very telling of their current mood. For instance, happy people tend to smile. In contrast, someone who is discontent may frown or simply maintain a stoic facial expression. A bored individual may yawn, and someone who feels angry or impatient may grit their teeth, roll their eyes, or subconsciously tense up their facial muscles.
General perceptions regarding levels of trustworthiness and even intelligence are also largely affected by facial expressions. Individuals who maintain eye contact while speaking are likelier to be deemed as honest and reliable. Studies have also shown that wider noses and narrow faces are often linked to intelligence. Of course, the judgments above and others like them often occur subconsciously.
The eyes and the mouth are arguably the two most critical and revealing parts of the facial expression. Eye rolling tends to be indicative of annoyance or disbelief while dilated pupils can indicate personal interest, romantic attraction, or even sexual arousal.
Similarly to the eyes, the mouth plays a critical role in body language and communication via facial expressions. Frowns are universally regarded as signs of unhappiness, while smiles are universally perceived as indicators of happiness. Many people cover their mouths when they are yawning or even laughing. Tightened mouths or lips are usually signs of disapproval, disdain, or a lack of trust. Another telling, mouth-related communicator involves lip biting. Depending on the setting and circumstances, biting one's lip can convey stress, anxiety, concern, or even sexual arousal.
Unlike (most) facial expressions, the interpretations of various hand gestures can vary, especially outside of the United States of America. However, depending on the environment or setting, most hand gestures are perceived in certain manners. For instance, a thumbs up are usually regarded as a nonverbal affirmation of approval, while its inverse, a thumbs down, is generally viewed as an expression of disapproval. The waving of one's hand or hands are also usually used as a way of nonverbally saying hello or goodbye. Finally, holding up one's middle finger in the air is a hand gesture of expressing annoyance, disdain, or disregard. In many settings, this particular gesture is regarded as inappropriate and vulgar.
Posture, Arms, Legs, And Space
The posture of an individual tends to vary depending on whether or not they are standing up or sitting down. However, regardless of their given form, this particular form of body language is usually very indicative of personality and personal feelings. For instance, standing or sitting upright generally communicates high levels of focus, interest, and attention. Conversely, slouching, being hunched over, or holding one's chin with the palm of a hand tends to convey fatigue, annoyance, disinterest, or boredom.
Allotted amounts of personal space also send a message. Someone who feels disgusted, fearful, or annoyed with someone may back away or otherwise attempt to increase the amounts of distance between themselves and the person or object of their displeasure. Conversely, a confrontational or aggressive individual may invade someone's personal space. In less hostile situations, the close distance between two individuals can be indicative of an intimate or otherwise friendly relationship between the parties.
How Does Body Language Shape Who You Are?
When most people think of body language, they think of other people's body language and the various ways in which they can read and interpret unspoken messages. However, for better or for worse, the body language of each largely impacts them and shapes who they are. National Public Radio (NPR) explains that body language alters the mind which, in turn, impacts personal conduct, which inevitably leads to certain outcomes. These outcomes can be good or bad, but ultimately, the quality of these outcomes depends on the individual and the quality of their body language.
One of the realities of life is the fact that each person will experience positive and negative emotions. Happiness, sadness, impatience, peace, relief, anger, etc. are all parts of being human. However, a person's chosen body language can strongly contribute to or decrease certain feelings and emotions. For instance, NBC News affirms that simply smiling, even when you feel unhappy, has the power to boost your mood. This occurs by sparking a chemical reaction in the brain. Likewise, Moo states that sitting in a "power pose" even if you feel uncertain or nervous can boost levels of confidence.
As human beings, we are creatures of habit. For this reason, most people tend to form certain postures, facial expressions, or hand gestures when certain emotions are triggered. Someone who is attempting to hide irritation may narrow their eyes and slightly purse their lips. Another person who is sad may tilt their head back to avoid crying or having their eyes water up. Each has their unique quirks and tells. As people form relationships with one another, the ease of picking up on certain emotions, even those which are concealed, becomes easier and easier.
For better or worse, body language impacts who we are because it impacts the manner in which the world sees us. A person's stance, eye contact, and hand gestures can determine whether or not they are hired, given a promotion, or asked out on a date. Body language also wields power to impact opportunities, general perceptions, and the people who wish to be around us. Under the right circumstances, an individual's body language can determine whether or not they live or die.
Manipulation Of Body Language
Countless people are aware of the power of body language and the many ways in which it shapes who they are. For this reason, some individuals choose to partake in certain physical actions even if they do not reflect their inner feelings. This is more common than most people might believe. For instance, someone who is lying, yet does not want their dishonesty to be readily apparent may look directly at the person they're communicating with and tell a lie. If the liar were to stammer and avoid clear, direct eye contact, their lack of truthfulness would be much easier to detect.
The manipulation of body language often occurs quite commonly in professional settings. An ambitious individual who wishes to get a certain job may smile even if they are annoyed with the questions of the interviewer and sit up straight even if their heart is pounding inside. People who play Poker and other card games also tend to maintain stoic, neutral facial expressions to avoid giving away information about their deal of cards to opponents. In fact, this practice occurs so frequently that it's often referred to as a "Poker face."
A Final Word
Body language shapes who we are in many regards. It impacts the manner in which others perceive us, how they interact with us, and the decisions they make which will affect us. Body language has the power to make or break certain deals or opportunities and impact internal feelings and emotions.
Although each person has the power to control their body language, ongoing depressive or discontent forms of nonverbal communication can be indicative of a bigger issue. Someone who always slouches, walks with their head down, or never appears to smile may have deeper issues beneath the surface which need to be addressed, and that's OK. Each person has their struggles and issues; it's just a part of being human. However, nobody should go through this thing alone.
One of the most important things in life is the existence of a strong and reliable support system. Having a good group of people to confide in during times of struggle, crisis, or difficulty can make all the difference in the world. Having a therapist or counselor as part of this network can also prove to be quite beneficial.
The counselors and therapists of BetterHelp pride us on providing world-class guidance and assistance to those who contact us. Our top priority is being of service and assisting people in achieving happiness and living their best lives. The decision to reach out to a therapist or counselor rests with each. Nevertheless, BetterHelp will always be here as an available option.
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